Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Playing with water balloons, placing them in your shirt to look well-endowed...curious.
Filling them with warm water so they are a bit more
Wearing them out in public for several hours before your mother notices...CRAZY!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The kids have been changing and I have not documented a thing.  Even my photography has fallen behind. I discovered that when I was creating calendars for Christmas presents that the month of January contained only a couple of photographs.  I am sure my kids will forgive me for missing ONE month of their lives, but I know that 2010 will be an easy, easy year to scrapbook.  I don't think I have one photo of Ethan in his Halloween costume or at his Christmas play.  It wasn't just Ethan either.  Everyone got a bit short-changed this year, including me and blogging.

I have to let it go.  It was beginning to stress me out.  There were times when I felt the urge to write.  I felt I had something to put into visual words, but time slipped away.  As soon as the mood struck, it was gone again.  So, I have a little look at my year at the beginning, but with some gaping holes here at the end.  Here is my attempt to connect some dots.

In October we took an extended family trip to Doughton Park in NC.  It is only about an hour and a half from the house, but the landscape changes quite dramatically and suddenly, you are in the mountains.  It is rustic and a lesser travelled area of the Blue Ridge Parkway which we really like.  The hiking trails are gentle and there are plenty of apples to pick along the way.  This year's trip couldn't have been any better.  The weather was gorgeous and we had a lot of down time just lazing around on a blankets under trees while the kids explored the areas around us.  I can still feel the warmth of the sun, the gentle breeze while reading a great book. 

Later in the month, we had a swim meet which yield some pretty decent drops.  The swim meet fell on the same day as the BBQ Festival in Lexington which I did not realize until after we had signed up for the meet.  We had to miss the festival which was very disappointing for the kids.

Next, we went with the swim team to the CORN MAZE just outside of High Point.  The kids also went panning for gems and minerals there.  That place is fun, but a bit of a racket.  I don't really enjoy wandering around in a corn field, but we were with another family who had a wonderfully keen sense of direction.  That made it a bit more bearable.

The elimination of market renting was a bit of a surprised to us, but in the end turned out to be a nice break from the hectic Octobers we have experienced in the past.  I miss having the clean house, but not the move.  I have been slowly cleaning out the house over the past months as the house just needs it twice a year if I want to maintain some sanity.

Halloween quickly approached and the kids chose the following as their costumes:
Ethan:  a banana (bizarre and completely not understandable)
Sadie:  Diva Ladybug (taking a sweet ladybug to another level)
Lily:  Pumpkin Princess (very cute)
Although we bought pumpkins this year, we never got around to carving them.  See, I told you it was a terrible year for traditions.   Ethan went to Halloween sleepover on the night that the girls went to our church trunk or treat.  Thus, I have a picture of the girls and not him.  We went trick or treating the next night in Willow Creek, but I forgot the card to my camera. We didn't have time to stop by our neighbors or to go to the church down at the end of our street because it was a school night.  Again, more traditions that were not upheld.  But, the kids had fun and that is really the point of it, right? 

Ethan brought home a report card with one B, the rest As.  I felt terrible for him because the B was only one point away from an A. If he received all As, then he would get texting on his Ipod, but alas he didn't.  Frankly, I can deal without him having the texting for quite a bit longer.  Therefore, it might be the only time I am happy for him to get a B. Ethan lost three teeth in the last week.  A little strange, but I understand quite normal for this age.  He seems to have settled into school and found his place in his class. Socially, he fluctuates between groups, which I think it probably best.  He has been quite helpful and responsible lately.  In fact, I would almost say that I see some maturation regarding taking ownership of schoolwork, swimming and life, in general.  The results have been a higher level of success in all areas.  It has been a great life lesson for him to see what hard work can achieve. 

Sadie, based on my grading, also received all As.  Homeschool is moving right along and the only subject area in which we seem to struggle is getting her motivated to write.  She can do it, but it isn't her preference.  Instead, she gravitates towards math.  I taught her how to do long division yesterday.  Her response, "I could do this all day.  I loooooovvvee this!"  Clearly, I did not contribute to that part of her being.  An area in which I must make more effort is in her socialization.  Sadie loves to be around people and thrives on playdates with friends. Despite swimming several times a week and her attendance at Faith Academy every Tuesday, Sadie lacks the amount of interaction that she needs.  Therefore, I am going to add some classes through High Point Home Educators on Monday that will not interfere with her regular schoolwork.  They are merely add-on, fun classes like cake decorating.  In general, I see more maturation with her choices and self-control.  After much deliberation and indecisiveness and several conferences later, Sadie has decided to continue swimming.  She took a week off to decide and ultimately determined that she does like it enough to continue.  I won't get into all the details that I think contributed to the seesawing, but in the end, she made the decision.

 Lily had a perfect O report card and loves school and her friends.  When there was a snow day this week, she cried because she wanted to go to school.  What a difference this year makes!  She has developed into a fantastic reader and I imagine she will be in full-on chapter books by the end of the school year.  She reads with such expression, too, which is so cute.  She is still ridiculously in love with snuggling and hugs.  And, she still does not have her front two teeth.  They have been out since June, but the dentist assures me that they are there, just slow to come in.  I don't know that I can say she has improved in swimming, but she likes it.  I am sure she has, but she is not the most coordinated little child.  It will take a little while.

So, we enter into November.  Sadie turned 9 and had a spa party at a place called Arts 2 Zebras.  Many girls from her class last year came which made Sadie feel good.  Her cousin, Gray, was notably absent, but that is just the situation at the moment.  Jay took her to get her ears' pierced which was a cool dad/daughter thing.  She has been asking to have this done for well over a year and we linked it to some behavior changes.  She feels very grown-up now.  We had the family here for Thanksgiving and the turkey, injected with spices and deep-fried, was divine.  For once, the family hung out for most of the day watching movies, playing games, etc.  My mom, Aunt Sue, Ethan and I played a game called WhooNu.  We laughed so hard - well, really cackled, that Ethan wondered, out LOUD, how any of us got married.  He said we were just too loud.  Oh, the words of a 10 year old!  Somewhere in this month we had some family portraits done, the results of which are nothing short of miraculous.  Editing is a wonderful thing and I could not be happier with the shots.  Later, the girls and I attended the High Point Christmas parade.  It stung just a tad that Ethan did not want to go this year.  However, we enjoyed watching the various groups.  It was a little nice to know that Ethan regretted his decision upon our return home.

December has rolled around and with it, I have tried to redeem some of our family traditions.  All the Christmas cards and party invitations have been mailed.  The presents are purchased and mostly wrapped.  We had our annual Christmas Craft Saturday with one other family where we made several ornaments.  And, we have completed this year's service project, Bags for the Bus Stop.  The kids made goody bags with hand warmers, candy, hand sanitizer, lip balm, a hand written note, and a few other things to give out at the central bus stop in our town.  Living here, you almost have to have a car, because public transport is just not that widely available.  The bus stops usually don't have shelter and the wait times can be long.  Last week, I pulled the van up and let the kids pass out over 40 bags to the people waiting.  They were so graciously received.  Some of the older ladies even hugged the kids and said, "God bless you."  The kids returned to the car glowing and excited.  Giving is always more rewarding that receiving.

Another swim meet yielded our best results of the season.  The hard works is finally paying off for Ethan as he had 4 new time cuts and is very close to 2 more cuts of the next level.  Sadie is now ridiculously close to new time cuts in 6 events.  I expect a bit of a blow-out at the next meet.  Overall, the kids seem satisfied with what they are achieving and therefore, I need to be as well.

The school Christmas program was Tuesday.  Ethan played the part of one of the WEE three kings.  It was the most hilarious part of the program.  It was a perfect fit for him.  That was his last Christmas program.  Sniff sniff.   Lily was very into the program and performed her songs and motions quite enthusiastically. 

The remainder of the traditions include a drive to look at holiday lights, a visit to Santa and a piano recital on Sunday.  We also have our company Christmas party and our little friend party this week.  I have some baking to do and of course, cleaning and grocery shopping in preparation.  Should be a hectic, but really joyous week!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Hope is a funny thing.  It is so connected with faith and perserverence, yet it often takes a backseat. In a world where we constantly live for the next big moment, hope is shuffled off, shown the door until the moment arrives.  I think there are very few people who can maintain hope through a series of big events that feel like a slap machine set on fast forward and aimed at their face.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I am guilty.  Guilty of pushing my kids a bit in some areas and not allowing them to always choose the direction of their lives. I do it often under the guise of knowing what is best as their parent.I have applied pressure to succeed in areas that they showed some talent, but just weren't interested in participating.  I know I am not alone in this fault.

The obvious first arena where this is most often witnessed is in children's sports. This day, everyone wants to push to the next level. We can't just play recreational soccer one day a week, we have to try out for special teams, travel out of town, attend special clinics. We can't just learn how to swim for the enjoyment and fun of it, we have to practice 3-5 times a week, travel to weekend meets and clock our kids' times. Their success (dropped time) or failure (added time) can dictate our mood for the weekend.

I have seen it in school and academics as well. Parents who copy schoolwork and workbooks to prevent an unsavory grade. What good does this serve the child? It kept the child on all A honor roll. Is this a reflection of his determination and hard work, or the parent's need to see their child's name on that published list?

Do we do it out of fear of our kids not being the best at whatever they are doing? Is it a one-up-man mentality? Are we always try to stay ahead of the game? Do we view our kids' success as a reflection on our success?

This past weekend, my family opted to forgo attending a swim meet. One meet would have sent us out of state for the entire weekend. The other, closer to home, would have gobbled up part of a Saturday and Sunday. It would have been Sadie's last 8 and under meet and she could have done quite well, possibly winning a couple of events. It was also the last attempt at achieving a new time standard which would have put the kids in a higher level meet in December.

Instead, we attended a magic show as a family. One child was able to attend a sleepover birthday. We attended a wonderfully powerfully and spiritually magnificent basketball game to raise funds for a boy whose cancer has relapsed. One child attended a Renaissance Fair and developed a friendship that is not part of his every day circle. I painted, cleaned and prepared for the week ahead.  It was a relaxed, no-pressure, no stress weekend.

Sometimes I think if everyone would just play by the same rules - no organized sports, no homework, no afterschool activities,  no personal electronics or cell phones UNTIL MIDDLE SCHOOL then would kids be forced to be more like kids?  Can you imagine a world like that?

Tell me your thoughts.
Recently, I shipped 16 camcorder cassettes across the country to be converted to DVDs.  It was with much intrepidation that I boxed them up and sent them via UPS. I checked on the tracking number hourly as they crisscrossed their way across the nation and back.  Finally, the package arrived at our home, the contents of which held six of the most eventful years of our lives.  It has been pure joy to watch these DVDs, the start of which coincides with my rehearsal dinner, wedding and honeymoon and ends shortly before the birth of Lily.  By then, we purchased a new camera then which was easier to download and edit on the computer.

To watch the beginning of your family, your first house, the birth of two children, moving, vacations, Christmas mornings, children playing and singing, sweet conversations between family and precious memories of those no longer with you...well, it is without words.  I have cried sweet tears of remembrance and I have laughed until my stomach ached.  Remembering life so fresh and new, so full of opportunity and anticipation has been soothing to my soul.

What has been most remarkable is watching my children speak, learn and interact in their toddler years.  They were precious, but sadly it seems lifetimes ago.  I don't recall much of what is on the tapes.  As I watched, their sweet, barely discernible voices (none of mine were ever clear talkers) filled my heart.  Their innocence bursting through, their hearts so open and believing of our God, yearning to hear about Him, talk about Him and sing about Him.  If they were those ages today, I would surely gobble them up!

Oh, the promises of those days.  The days were filled with nothing to do but mother and keep up a house. Not to down-play those tasks, as God knows the toddler years and the hours of 5 pm - 7pm are just about as dark as it gets.  However, these days, my additional duties include driving an activities cab, cramming in homework, chores, emotions that are simply inconsolable, afterschool activities, one homeschooler, world war three squabbles all the while pointing to God as I yell, "Get in the van!" 

For all the wonderful years that are behind us, how exciting to recognize how much of their lives are in front of them. Who will they be?  What will they be? What choices will they make?  For now, I'll be content reliving the past captured on those DVDs.
Anxiously, she sat on the edge of her seat, scanning to see a sign of him. She looked back at me excitedly, "I think I see him!"  She looked back to confirm her discovery only to turn and say, "No, that isn't him."  It must have felt like eternity for her,  the parking lot for a sign of his arrival. 

Her eyes lit up, her face broke a grin that was larger than her face and she ran to him as he sauntered down the sidewalk to our table.  She lept into his arms, warping her lithe legs around his, clinging to him as if she would never let him go.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

An answer to "instability"

A little over a month ago I wrote this post. 

I received many responses from the post, mostly out of concern.  First, let me say that sometimes you just need to vent.  A raw, realistic view of my anger and feelings of defeat were in that post.  I surmise that most people experience such reactions to the world at some point.  However, one thing that I did not clarify in the post was the cause of my ire and what provoked the rant.

It was me. I alone am responsible for my reaction to circumstances.  No matter how warranted it is perceived, it isn't correct if it is a sinful reaction.  The world should be able to bang on my door, barge right on in, taint everything around me, yet, not penetrate my soul.  I let it.  I don't blame anyone but myself.  I am a sinner.  I allowed my response to not be Godly, not at all.  I reacted very, very poorly.  I wish I could take it away and claim that I rose above it all, but I can't.  I mired in it, rolled around in it, stepped into the pit and stunk.

My complete meltdown was a result of realizing my failure, once again.  My anger was pointed straight into my heart.  I long for the return of Jesus so that this will end once and for all. PRAISE GOD earth is the closest to hell that I will ever see.

Maybe I could have held strong had it not been for the depression that has been lurking around, sometimes wrecking havoc in my brain for several years now. Nah.  Couldn't have done it at all without Him.  He wasn't placed first in all of this.  I took control, unfortunately.

Having confessed my heart to God and getting right with Him, meeting with my doctor, and taking some time away from the daily grind has turned my path.  My daily prayer is full of repentance. I am a sinner, but my heart desires not to be a repeat offender.

I may be called instable because of what I have written, but you know, I don't mind. Being truthful and real, confessing my sins and my failures, acknowledging my constant need for Jesus opens me up to judgement.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Cor 12:9

"In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33 NIV)

Know that you can be renewed and transformed through the God, but it takes humility in order for these experiences to take place. Human pride often blocks our dealing with painful problems. Once we finally admit our wrongdoings and failures, there can be a real solution for us. Humbling ourselves before God is the ultimate key that will allow us to experience the wonderful comfort that only the Almighty One can provide.
First quarter down.  School-wise, that is.  Homeschool is moving along quite well.  I couldn't be more thrilled with the results.  My relationship with Sadie has transformed; she has transformed into a much more mature, wise-choosing, sensitive little girl.  I still see some spiritedness when in groups of kids, but even in that area she has settled down.  Most days she tackles her school work with enthusiasm and is genuinely content with our arrangement this year.  Not to say that every day is that way, but mostly the frustration and refusals are short- lived.  Often she moves on with a nice apology and moves on.  She has written some amazing pieces including a compare/contrast between her life and Abe Lincoln's life. 

Our biggest battle this year has been swimming.  However, the last two weeks there has been a drastic change in attitude and focus.  I see determination in her spirit again.  I am most encouraged by the work she is putting into practice. 

I wonder if Sadie will always try to find a battle in her life.  Even if it is her desire to participate in an activity or be asked to participate, will she show resistance in order to feel that she has all of the control?  Moving forward in obedience means letting someone else have the reigns.  Although what I am writing is regrading earthly circumstances, it also is quite applicable to a spiritual journey as well.  May the love of her Father and her love for Him break what is a naturally rebellious spirit.

As for me...I have found stability.  For the past three-four weeks, I have had no mood swings, no spiraling, no emotional pits.  What previously made me obsessive, paranoid and cantankerous has little effect on me now.  I am starting to feel like my old self again.  Thank you to the makers of Lexapro. I know this is not a long-term solution, but a first step in conquering what I now know is depression.  Not to mention, it has me back into the word.  WORD! I love how God puts such a clear path of truth in front of me and encourages me. 

A nice anniversary trip with my husband to a tropical destination didn't hurt the cause either.  Ok, calling it nice is the most gross understatement of my life.  It was the best trip I have ever taken.  Ever.  Jay and I relive it every day after he gets home from work. He is constantly looking at how to move there (completely unrealistic).  I know that it has been years, maybe even never, since I have been that relaxed, unwound, de-stressed.  Perfect in every single way.

The big eye opener to the trip was the 5 page typed document that I had to leave with the caretakers of my children in my absence.  Yes.  FIVE PAGES.  It was the schedule I keep each with with school, various after school stuff, key information, bags to pack, soccer games, swim schedules, etc.  My mother actually sounded extremely irritated when she looked over the list.  Not that she minded helping out or that it was too taxing for her, but that I have created such a schedule for me and my family.  I can't help but examine whether her shock (along with my father's shock who also helped out) is valid or if she is coming from a generation's perspective that included a one-car family early on, a lack of sport activities for children, low-stress schooling for children (i.e. no homework in elementary), or if it is from the perspective of a grandmother who is retired.  Not that she doesn't stay busy, but her schedule is nearly all at her own discretion.  Or, have I really created a monster?  Do we all feel like we are scrambling as mothers today?  Why do we do it? 

Friday, September 17, 2010

Another day...

Things I have learned in the last week or so...

1.  A trip to the beach with a couple of girlfriends can drastically change the direction in which you are going.

2.  I had a friend tell me that she did not know one homeschooling mom who did not have a complete crisis during their first year, regardless of how the year was going.  Makes sense to me.  There is a lot of under the surface stress in that department.

3.  I don't have to accomplish anything big for God. I just have to love Him.  Sometimes stillness and quiet are good things. Sometimes loving God and loving my neighbor happens to be with those who are with me every day.  I have to be ok with that.

4.  Despite previous diagnosis of teeth grinding, poor eyesight (resulting in glasses), sinus infections, and allergies, the new most logical diagnosis for my forehead, eye throbbing, and cheek numbness is a type a migraine.  Here's to some new meds while I start documenting their occurrences.

5.  A doctor who is willing to tell you a very personal story about their own bout with depression and spiraling emotions to help you not feel alone in your misery is the type of doctor I want to see.

6.  My husband that can make me laugh no matter how terrible I feel physically, how irritated I am at him, or how on the verge of bawling I am, is a keeper.  Twelve years and I can say...he is a keeper.

7.  On that same note as saying he is a keeper, I can also state that no matter how minuscule, simplified or even common sense filled the list might be, Jay is never going to complete any "to do" list that I make when I go out of town.  I will never write such a list again.  It is a waste of my time and energy.

8.  Keeping my mouth shut and walking away is always, always, the better decision in the long run.  Let the battle be the Lord's. 

9.  Lily is becoming quite the comedian.  Funny little looks and clever little statements.  Keeps me smiling.  What a little joy.

10.  Although she can come across as being a bit ditsy, Lily is actually quite aware of what is going around her, what is on the calendar and when things are due. 

11.  Ethan can exaggerate social situations for fear of rejection.  His own recognition of such is quite mature for him.  He is such a deep thinker. 

12.  Ethan is very determined to stay on track and focused at school and his outside activities.  I know that sounds like a blanket statement, but I see him taking more initiative than in years past.

13.  Sadie will never be allowed to take prednisone again after tomorrow. Never. 

14.  Homeschooling is still the best decision I could have ever made. 

15. Sadie is a lovely little girl (while not taking prednisone).  Her multiple phone calls while I was away made me realize how much we have grown to enjoy each other's company.  I think we missed each other more than we had anticipated.

16.  No matter how disappointed I am because of my own actions and those that I must deal with, my children and my husband are more than enough reason to never give up.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

I have not slept well in several days.  By that, I mean only a couple of hours each night and those have been fitful.  I have had had 4 dreams in the past week that my children and/or I have been diagnosed with cancer. Throw in multiple conflicts, emotional spiraling, the loss of another one to cancer and that equals one very downtrodden person.  Make that depressed.  Never have I been so ready for Jesus to return.  I am tired of life on this earth.  I hate it.  I have failed, continued to fail, and I never seem to move past the same cycle of failure.  Retreat I must.  No words of encouragement here.  No signs of victory evident.  No shouting off the rooftops.  Just done. 

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Remember This...

I am actually doing it.  I am homeschooling one of my children.  The very child I said would be the last one I would ever choose to homeschool, which I never planned to do for any of my kids anyway.  The very child that never evoked sadness when I left her at a new adventure.  The very child that exposed every sinful fiber of my being. The very child that has challenged much of what I thought I knew about myself.  The very child that seemed more alien to me than familial.

After two days, yes, only two days, I can say...I love this.  I love this child. I love this decision. I love where it is taking me and I love what I see blooming between us.  I don't recall having received so many "I love you" notes in such a short time.  She actually said, "I can't believe you are doing all of this for me."  Our time together has been precious.  PRECIOUS!

Now, I am a realist.  I know this is the honeymoon stage and that by October I will be seriously rethinking my decision.  I will have this blog post to remind me of what I saw in these early days that filled me to the brim. 

This year is about us - more than anything academic.  It is about repairing my previously deteriorating, hurtful and always on the verge of exploding relationship with my daughter.  My eyes are full of tears as I type this.  Thank you, God, for this opportunity.  Thank you for taking my once very stubborn and hardened heart and transforming it to your will.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

I had a discussion with a friend last week that left me pondering this question in the midst of life just not feeling right. Is my discontent with life based on a) rose-tinted view of the past, or b)  the realization that what I am experiencing is simply the way life normally is and I have just been fortunate no to have experienced it in this way, or c) am I just chemically unbalanced at the moment?

I liken what I have been feeling to wearing a pair of panty hose that is just one size too small with the elastic worn out at the top. Yeah, it is that uncomfortable.  You know what I am talking get it up to your waist, or above your waist for those that are so blessed to be short-waisted.  Drag the legs up so that the crotch finally fits into place and continue to get dressed.  At the beginning of your day, the pantyhose feels pretty good.  It keeps your legs a little warm, evens out the color in your legs, maybe even hides a varicose vein or so.  But then, as you walk about your day, the hose begins to sag.  First, the waist rolls down, then inches toward your hips, dragging your panties with it (exempt only if you wear a thong).  The crotch is the next to go sliding down your thighs until it is nearly at your knees,greatly limiting your stride.It gives me shudders just remembering that feeling. You head to the bathroom to try to repair it and while grabbing at it to pull it up, your fingers thrust through the woven elastic, ripping a finger-sizes hole and causing them to run.  Thus, you further ruined something you were already really struggling with anyway.

It took this Sunday at church to give me my answer.  I realized that issue of my daily grind being a bit irritating was not a, b, or c, but because I have been trying to fit into something that really isn't me at all.  I have been wearing a pair of hose the size and fit of which initially gave me a "warm fuzzy."  But as time progressed, that hose became my enemy, dragging me down, leaving me frustrated.  It left me constantly trying to make it stay in place, perfectly stretched to my frame  Conclusion? I had been conned.  It was and will never, ever going to work.

I have been living in the world. As a result, I kept trying to use my own strength to get me through some tough emotions, just like trying to make that dreadful pantyhose stay in place.  Guess what?  I ruined it. It hasn't been comfortable and trying even harder to make it work has ultimately ruined quite a few things.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Pregnant Summer

School orientation last night means that summer is coming to a screeching halt and school will begin in a mere 4 days.  Much of our adventures have been undocumented this summer and for the sake of remembrance, I will make a short synopsis here.  I say "sake of remembrance" because Jay firmly believes I have some sort of short-term memory issues invading my brain.  Maybe he is right.  Actually, now that I think about it, if I do have some sort of short-term memory lapses going on, then I won't remember much of this summer, right?  Oh never mind.

School let out in May and as documented in this blog, we headed for the Old Country to see Jay's parents.  Lovely trip.  The kids were fantastic traveling and Jay's host parents, Jimmy and Nancy, were in awe as well.  I have a wonderful peace when I am in the Netherlands.  Maybe it is the simpler lifestyle or the sounds of the language rolling off their tongues, maybe it is was just vacation.  It was the perfect kick-off to summer.

Upon our return, we dove head first into swim season.  Did you get that pun?  I made the mistake of signing the kids up for three swim teams this summer.  Even writing it, I wonder what was going through my brain at the time. Two summer league teams and one year round team kept us hopping from pool to pool and meet to meet.  In the end, we weren't really focused on anything more than packing bags and driving around in my car.  Progress was slow and sometimes not as evident, but the kids had fun with their summer league teams and friends.  Overall Sadie consistently came in second in each of her events, with an occasional first and third thrown in.  Ethan was a consistent fifth placer for the team and was counted on for the longer, more difficult event of the 100 IM. Lily's first meet was not quite what I had expected.  She jumped in, came up for air, heard all the people sheering and completely freaked out.  She grabbed the lane rope and I wasn't too sure she would give it up and swim to the side of the pool.  Thankfully, I can chalk it up to being completely unprepared for the noise, the experience of a swim meet with a little jet lag from our trip to Europe.  She recovered in time for the next meet and from then on, she jumped in and finished with no problem.  She even earned a few ribbons in the process which thrilled her little 5-year old heart to no end.

Interspersed with swimming were trips to go bowling, skating, to ArtQuest, and sleepovers with friends, piano lessons, time spent with Grandparents, away camp at Camp Lurecrest, Lily's first overnight guest, a day at Wet 'n Wild water park, a trip to Wrightsville Beach, golf camp, cheer camp and Barbie ballet camp.

Some highlights from the above include Ethan's return to Camp Lurecrest which he counted down the days until he boarded the bus in Charlotte.  It also marked Sadie's first foray into overnight camp.  She loved it and the letters home announced that she was not homesick at all!  Their first week after camp was the most delightful one for me as they were so well-behaved. They can't wait to return next summer!

Lily attended cheer camp at school and also Barbie ballet camp at a local dance studio.  She was thrilled with both, although coordination may not her strongest suit.  Still, she completed her little routines and performed with enthusiasm at the final shows of each event.  Lily was also treat to a day trip to Tweetsie Railroad while Ethan and Sadie were away.  A huge thanks goes out to my father and stepmom for this treat which translates to me not having to go back to Tweetsie ever again!  Yay!  She came home with a pink cowboy hat and wonderful memories. 

Some funny, or well, now funny moments over the summer include Lily's self-inflicted hair cut. Her efforts were best described as a long mullet with several chunks taken out of the back. Yes, I freaked out.  Thankfully, we had a even-keeled friend visiting at the time who promptly helped with procuring an appointment at a professional salon just a short time later!  Now, Lily sports a cute little bob which is really much, much easier to maintain.

Ethan and Lily had several things in common this summer - birthdays, birthday parties and lost teeth.  Ethan lost an incisor and Lily lost both top teeth leaving her with a little Dracula look.  Ethan celebrated his 10th birthday twice - once on his actual birth date which coincided with our trip to the Netherlands and then a pool party with his friends in July.  Lily celebrated her birthday with her family and two friends at Golden Corral (her choice!) and then at home.  Her party is this Sunday at the Rol-A-Rink.

Our trip to Wrightsville Beach was a nice cap to a full summer.  We only went for a long weekend, but it provided a nice burst of family time before school begins.  We had one crazy series of events that occurred on Saturday.  It all started when Sadie caught a live jelly fish in a bucket.  It was the "hit" with all the kids in our area of the beach.  The kids were all chanting, "Bury it! Bury it!"  However, not heeding this advice, Jay decided to throw it back into the ocean to "save it."  I could discuss his decision regrading the fate of the jellyfish, but I will continue with the story and let you make the call whether this was the correct one or not.  After flinging the jellyfish about two feet away from his position in the water which was about knee deep, the jellyfish did what most would have done, been forced to the short by the crashing waves.  The kids noticed it was coming back on shore and crept closer to see what it was doing.  At this point, it made it to shore and Lily, with her lack of coordination, tripped on nothing, her knee landing right smack onto the jellyfish.  Ouch.  I rushed my screaming child to the lifeguard who told me to put wet sand on the sting.  From this moment on, Lily refused to go back into the ocean, not even getting her feet wet.  And this is what Lily proclaimed she would write on her first piece of paper on the first day of first grade: "I went to the beach and got stung by a jellyfish and it hurt a lot."  Great.

Ethan and Sadie have been over the moon with golf camp this week.  Both have begged to continue with lessons after the camp is over. That leads me to our "school year schedule."  Typing those actual words give me serious anxiety.  I like simplicity although I rarely achieve it with my schedule.  This year looks to be the worst.  I am trying to figure out how I get myself into this type of mess and the bottom line is that I try to make life "fair" to each of my three kids while also giving them the best opportunities possible.  I know both of these philosophies are very worldly viewpoints and neglect the much more important "God first, then spouse, then kids" belief.

Hereis our tentative schedule:
Ethan:  Swimming M.W.TH, golf - to be determined (decided against scouts and music lessons this year)
Sadie:  Faith Academy on Tuesdays from 12:30 - 4:45, piano Thursday 1:30, swimming M.WTH
Lily: Swimming TH, Piano Tuesday 3:00, soccer - to be determined

Writing it out like that makes it appear fairly simple, but what it means is that no one gets home from their day until around 5:45 M-TH.  And on Tuesday, it will be later if Lily does soccer on that day.  I pushed Lily off of soccer all last year and feel like I have to at least let her try it because of her strong interest in it. It also means that Ethan will have to do homework on the go this year.  His ability to stay focused is tenuous at best and will the stress and anxiety of keeping up, staying on track and potential of becoming complacent be our downfall?  Time will tell.  I can always move swim days around and drop one altogether. Soccer will also end in early November.

The bonus of the schedule, I think, is that Sadie will not have homework or projects so that eliminates one issue at night.  Lily and I will have some alone time together while the other two are swimming as I plan on heading home during swim practice to start dinner.  I will also allow Ethan to stay up until 9 this year. The girls will hit the bed at 8, but giving Ethan the extra hour will give us more time together and give him some needed downtime after homework.

Homeschool.  I am waiting on two books, but have been able to make two weeks of lesson plans without them.  I have tentatively set Sadie up in the dining room as we are reworking our bonus room with cabinetry and desks.  What was once a playroom is being transformed into a study/hangout room for tweens.  I spoke with Sadie this morning to get a feel for where she was with all the changes.  She did not go with us to the orientation last night at school and I wondered what was going on in her mind.  She responded that she was really excited about staying at home this year.  Relief.

We have named our school Raritas Academy, which means rare and unique.  The requirements for the state include: registering your school, sending in the instructor's high school (or above) diploma, and then keeping attendance throughout the year.  I am not sure that end of year testing is required, but it doesn't matter because I plan on doing that anyway.  So, we are all set to start our first day of school on the same day as Ethan and Lily.  Jay was quick to point out that he already knew who would win the "Teacher of the Year" and "Student of the Year!"

If you have made it through all of this rambling, thanks. 

Blue Like Jazz

"The ability to accept God's unconditional grace and ferocious love is all the fuel we need to obey Him in return." Blue Like Jazz: NonReligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality, by Don Miller

I am in the midst of reading a great book.  The book reflects much of what has been turning, rather rolling around in my brain this summer.  The sways and straying of a heart that was once passionately and fervently sold out to Him.  The varying ebb and flow of a zealous believer to that of near apathy.  The discovery of just what a sinner I am, attempt to overcompensate with ridiculous legalistic bindings only to realize again what a sinner I am.  It gets me nowhere on my own.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Perfect Pantyhose

I had a discussion with a friend last week that left me pondering this question in the midst of life just not feeling right. Something has been unsettling, almost weird. I asked my friend, is my discontent with life based on a) rose-tinted view of the past, or b) the realization that what I am experiencing is simply the way life normally is and I have just been fortunate not to have experienced it in this way, or c) am I just chemically unbalanced.

I liken what I have been feeling to wearing a pair of pantyhose that is just one size too small with the elastic worn out at the top. Yeah, it is that uncomfortable. You know what I am talking get it up to your waist, or above your waist for those that are so blessed to be short-waisted. Drag the legs up so that the crotch finally fits into place and continue to get dressed. At the beginning of your day, the pantyhose feels pretty good. It keeps your legs a little warm, evens out the color in your legs, maybe even hides a varicose vein or so. But then, as you walk about your day, the hose begins to sag. First, the waist rolls down, then inches toward your hips, dragging your panties with it (exempt only if you wear a thong). The crotch is the next to go sliding down your thighs until it is nearly at your knees,greatly limiting your stride. It gives me shudders just remembering that feeling. You head to the bathroom to try to repair it and while grabbing at it to pull it up, your fingers thrust through the woven elastic, ripping a finger-sizes hole and causing them to run. Thus, you ruined something you were already really struggling with anyway.

It took this Sunday at church to give me my answer. I realized that issue of my daily grind being a bit irritating was not a, b, or c, but because I have been trying to fit into something that really isn't me at all. I have been wearing a pair of hose the size and fit of which initially gave me a "warm fuzzy." But as time progressed, that hose became my enemy, dragging me down, leaving me frustrated. It left me constantly trying to make it stay in place, perfectly stretched to my frame. Sunday, I realized I had been conned. It was and will never, ever going to work. Instead, I have been missing the truth - what was perfectly designed for me.

I have been living in the world. This worldliness is lived out daily in my life because as Jerry Bridges defines it, I am just accepting and going along with the values and practices of our culture without discerning if they are pleasing to God. I have always believed that the world thrusts it influence upon us. Revelation time here...the changed occurred inside me first. That pride began inside me.

As a result, I kept trying to use my own strength to get me through some tough emotions. Guess what? I ruined it. Like wearing that dreadful pantyhose, life hasn't been comfortable. Trying even harder to make it work has ultimately destroyed quite a few things, ripping destructive holes into relationships and circumstances and most painfully my relationship with God.

We can't resist the pull of the world if it is left up to us. It hurt to hear the reality of what I had been doing. I chose to don that pantyhose believing that it would make me appear better in the world. Essentially, I was living like what He did was not enough. His actions, His presentation to the world was not good enough. I have been valuing my position in the world more than what Christ did for me.

Little lies to present myself as more together than the reality. Little tales to present myself as "cool" or acceptable to others. Little choices of what I was doing or reading or wearing to present a certain image. Little tales of my children to put off the fact that I am a sinful mother that fails miserably every day when I am mothering on my own strength. Little words that just slip out of my mouth without a thought or care. All those "littles" similar to those little tugs and pulls to wear a pair of stinking worldly pantyhose, pantyhose woven with all the pride of the flesh, the eyes, and the possessions of my soul. You know, God didn't mean for me to try to make something fit that shouldn't have been in my drawers to begin with. In fact, I think when Christ was nailed to the cross and he eliminated the need for pantyhose altogether!  Can I get an AMEN!?!

"When someone sets his affections upon the cross and the love of Christ, he crucifies the world as a dead and undesirable thing. The baits of sin lose their attraction and disappear. Fill your affections with the cross of Chris and you will find no room for sin." John Owen

There is no better life than the tap, tap, tap on your shoulder from the Holy Spirit alerting you to self-promoting behavior and stopping it in its tracks.  Praise the Lord!

Monday, July 19, 2010

She bends to her knees,
The moist dirt quickly staining her skin.
Her weight shifts forward, her hands working the ground.
Delicately and tenderly she pulls her pride to the side.
She grabs at the longs strands of grasses,
growing where they are forbidden.

Her shoulders, bare, begin to feel sweat dampen her skin,
Salty, warm, and tacky to the touch.
She inches her way down the rows,
clearing the path for her plants to flourish.
Dirt pulled from deep lands on her leg, her arm, her hair.
Darkened earth fills the unkempt nails on her fingers.

The richness of the earth is nearly intoxicating.
Its grit smoothes away the rough edges.
Her anxieties lessen.
The burdens of life leave her shoulders.
Resting on her heels, she sees victory.
Her accomplishment simple, but it is hers to claim.
Hers alone.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

You have been extra difficult the past two weeks.  My confidence in being your mother is wavering.  I have fallen into the old trap of measuring my successes on how the world sees me. 

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Girl and Her Bandages

A few years or so ago, my Sadie discovered what fun it is to play with ace bandages.  Being one to make a fuss over letting her do something out of the norm, I put it away so that we would have it when the time came that we really needed to use it.

About six months ago, Sadie had a discussion with her great-grandmother.  I have no idea how the topic came about.  Oh wait.  Yes, I do.  My great-grandmother had an ace bandage on her leg covering a wound.  Ever-curious Sadie asked her multiple questions including where she got her bandage.  Imagine Sadie's glee when she learned that my great-grandmother was a collector of such bandages and was happy to pass a small tub of various sized bandages to Sadie.

Never to forget this momentous occasion, Sadie asked repeatedly when we could go see Gram to get her new toys.  We had a swim meet in my great-grandmother's neighborhood and of course, stopped by her house after the meet.  Sadie reminded me about the bandages and I dug through my grandmother's hall closet and collected more than 12 packed and rolled lightly tan-pink colored elastic bandages.

On the way home, I knew that I would need to set some ground rules on where and when to play with the bandages.  1) No wearing them in public 2) Do not put them anywhere but on arms and legs (certainly not necks) 3) Do not put them on your siblings unless requested and 4) Do not put them on the dog.

After much pleading, I relented and let Sadie wear one bandage out in public.  She concocted some ridiculous story about tripping on a toy.  Or, was it at the pool?  I can't remember as the story changed faster than the number of our national debt, but each time it was met with a sympathetic nod by a stranger, and my eye rolling and sigh.  She was thrilled.
I don't know where to begin with all that has happened this summer. I feel like I have missed it with all that whirled by us in June. 

After our trip overseas, the swim team season was in full swing and I learned a multitude of valuable lessons that I list here to prompt myself next summer.

1) Our year round swim program is really the only practice I should make mandatory.  I noticed some deterioration to the kids' strokes as the season progressed and although the kids had a lot of fun at their summer team practices, they need the consistency of their year round coach more.

2) The fact that some children do not like ice cream, pizza, spaghetti, waffles or chicken fingers (versus nuggets which they do like) is incomprehensible to me.

3) Three swim teams is entirely too many.

4) Even your sweetest child has the propensity to cut her own hair, into a long mullet, trying to look like her sister.

5) Childhood friends just end up being the best friends you ever had.

6) Drama is still quite active in the world.  I thank God that for the past several years I have been removed from it.  It's absence in my life made that reality sting a little more than I would have liked.  I need to perk up at the clues when it is coming and...RUN.

7) Speaking of running, I should practice that more often. If my heart is uneasy and my brain says something is not right, I should remove myself from the situation.  Well, I think it is probably better to sum it up in the term, "slink quickly and quietly away."  Do you see a theme forming here?

8) Getting a child's opinion is never necessary.

9)  Sports bring out the best in people...and the worst.

10)  My husband wants us around a lot more than I thought he did.

11) I am not sure that I buy that labeling someone gives them the right not to mature.

12) You are never too old for a night in a tree house.

13) It is imperative for me to not be swayed by people's opinion of my own children.

14) Hanging at home is surprisingly enjoyable, highly productive and extraordinarily stress-free.

15) Sometimes I am not as strong as I thought I was in who I am.  High school insecurities have not been in my line of vision since well, high school.  Why now?  I should quietly slink away from those make me feel this way.

16) "Hair" is one of the last fights I will have with my children.  Arrow-shaped mohawks are actually quite cool.

17) Growing a garden has brought me much joy and delight.  Passing along produce to others is the cherry on the top.

18) My tendency to yell, has in turn, created yellers. It needs to stop.

19) Sunflowers are precious to my soul.  Having one growing facing into my window instead of the sun is priceless.

20) Like 99% of all mothers, my children are the most valued things in my life.  I will fight for them and protect them with everything I have. It is tough to walk away when you feel that is being questioned.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A good old-fashioned release of emotions

Ever felt like you wanted a do-over?  Or better yet, just wanted to pretend that world outside your house didn't exist?  The pressure cooker has hit its peak, or is it obvious?

I do not like drama and for the most part of my more mature life have done well to avoid it.  Something happened in the last 2 months, however, and I have been sucked in like a black hole.  Sometimes I have kept my feelings internal, sometimes I have not been able to contain them.  Either way, I am having a hard time letting what others say not fester in that pot o' muck inside me. 

I like blending into the background, skirting in the shadows, not making waves, being content with what I know and who I am. That has not happened lately and frankly, every time I turn around something or someone is figuratively slapping me in the face.  Criticism...left and right.  Stingers about my unruly kids, some ridiculous mess about a swim team, where my kids are swimming, questioning how much I really care about my kids, how much time I am spending away from my house, or too much time devoted to a worth cause, whispers of my name with darting eyes...yes, I see it.

I guess I have come to the conclusion that I am around a lot of people who are still relatively new to me.  They don't know me and my heart - just as I don't know theirs.  Therefore, they interpret actions, statements, etc. to be very different than my intentions. Gossip, morals, values, life's purposes and foci - all swirling around into some really bizarre and challenging outcomes and situations.  I feel very out of sorts in every environment this summer.  The perception is that I misstep at every turn and there is some sort of satisfaction at it being pointed out to me.

Maybe stick a fork in me. I am D-O-N-E.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Summer slows the writing down.  I haven't been inspired to put my thoughts down because really life has been churning out much of the same incidents and routines.  Well, except for the baby bird I found in Sadie's bed which she had been caring for about 4 days or so.  But, really, that isn't very shocking for those that have frequented this blog. I was turned away from writing because I felt it was turning into "My Outstanding Kids."  Of course, I know they are, but I don't need to write about them every time, now do I?

However, and there is always that word in my posts, events over the past week have changed a little of that and so I am ready to write this evening at 12:09 since I cannot sleep. 

Humanity is disappointing.  Though that sounds like a cynics statement, I find it almost uplifting.  Because in every way that humanity fails, which is does constantly, God does not.  My hope has to be found in Him, because otherwise, life would be a constant downer.  There is nothing better than rising above the fray and soaring through life on His wind. Absolutely nothing.

And yet, I sit here, surprised that I have allowed myself to fall under the trappings of this world again.  Trying to go through life with a teflon coating on is impossible.  You have to feel, but when those feelings push you to act in anger or hurt, the ending result has never, ever been a positive one.  At least in my experience.

Today seemed to be a culmination of several difficult situations around me coming to a head. It is one of those weeks where I want to hide out in my house until the storm of information is over, the latest shocking revelation has died.  I want to pretend that the hurtful and hateful things that are occurring are not and those I love are happy and safe.  I have done well maintaining composure and even some decorum.  I know, shocking.  Now, however, my heart is racing and hot. My thoughts seek out revenge.  Someone must be put in their place.

 Showing grace is a more difficult path than dismissing someone altogether. It says I am willing to put aside my own emotions in exchange for letting God take control and trusting the battle for one of His own is His.  I pray tonight that I can have peace that God's will has been done. His will is perfect and therefore should receive all of my trust. Humanity will always disappoint.  My hope is in Him alone.  But, God, could you ease up on the weight of the disappointments...just a little?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

After a week of feeling like my head was swirling around in a toilet, I think I am finally back on track.  Not that I actually know how feels, but it seems like an apt description.   My mind and body could not get wrapped around what day it was, what hour it was and what it was that I was supposed to do.  I don't recall jet lag every having that effect on me, so maybe it is age. 

I spent more time at pools this week than I think I have during any other time in my life.  So much so that I am already a little dulled by it all. We have too many swimming options, practice options and opportunities to get wet that I am not making sound choices for the family.  We must have some family time and this week it didn't happen.  In fact, I am not sure I had a complete conversation with Jay all week.  He never did get back on track with eastern standard time this week, often falling into bed at 8 pm and waking up at 4 am.  Maybe I should have been the trooper and gotten up with him, but given how cantankerous I am in the morning, it would have been counterproductive. 

Lily begins cheerleading camp this week.  She is over the moon with this idea and she more than has the voice volume for it.  She is the child that I am constantly telling, "Indoor voice, Lily. Use your indoor voice."  Should be interesting.  Swimming has not gone quite as I expected.  I think the two weeks off from practice, the noise and lack of preparation for the meet on my part left her quite in a panic.  At her first race, she jumped in a little late, came up for her first breath, heard all the noise and panicked. She promptly started crying and clung to the lane rope.  I could do nothing but stand there and try to encourage her to keep swimming or get out.  Basically, I was no help. Eventually, she swam under the lane line to the side and got out.  We have at least gotten her back in the water and it appears her self-confidence is back.  She can certainly swim the length of the pool, but came completely frozen when it came time to actually doing it when it counted.  Could be a long summer ahead on the swim team.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

School ends and summer begins

We are home from our vacation which turned out to be one, if not the best, trip we have had to visit Jay's parents.  Maybe it is the kids getting older, I don't know.  But, the trip was easy, the weather great and I came home pretty satisfied with what we did.

It is a little strange to come home and see that summer is in full swing.  School was still in when we departed. It is hard to wrap my head around our summer schedule.  I have a few updates regarding the kids and will forgo writing about any more travel details for now.

Miss Lily has completed her first year of school with flying colors.  Her teachers felt that Lily had a tremendous year of growth in terms of behavior and adjusting to school life.  She went from asking not to go every morning to crying that it was over and she wouldn't see her friends and her teachers.  At the year end assembly, Lily was given the "Loving Heart" award for her class.  She was thrilled with this award as she said, "No one else got Loving Heart as their award."  On her last day of school, the teacher had her sit in front of the class and her classmates were asked to make a comment about Lily.  The teacher said they all talked about Lily's loveliness and sweetness. 

Lily took her first standardized test this year as well.  We do not have the results, yet. However, when I asked how she did, Lily announced to me, "I got them all right."  I asked how she knew and she said, "I answered them all and they were right!"  I love her confidence.  She loves to color, do anything musical and spend time looking at books and reading.

On our trip, Lily lost her first top tooth.  The tooth fairy came all the way to France to visit her in the night.  Unfortunately, the tooth fairy misread some Euro coins in the dark of night which resulted in Lily receiving quite a bit more than what is normally doled out to the Dumoulin children! The other front tooth is extremely loose so I imagine it will be out within a couple of days.  Sometimes it is difficult to understand what Lily is saying, so I predict no front teeth will put me in the position of translator.

She was fantastic on the plane ride on our trip.  No whining, crying, or any other issues.  It was so completely opposite from our last trip.  Of course, that was three years ago.  What a difference! She loved being with Jay's parents and despite many requests to sit beside me in the car or sit beside me at the table, she was open to whatever activities they had planned for the day. One note on the trip - a slightly bizarre one at that - Lily, age 5, had a day of, hmmm, how do I say this delicately?  Well, she had a day where she stunk, literally.  Body odor.  I was so taken by surprise.  I have no idea if this is a permanent situation or some freaky, I have had too much cheese intake, sort of thing.  I can hardly get her to brush her teeth every day so I can't fathom deodorant.  But, at 5 years old?!?!

Lily' favorite parts of the trip were the Efteling (European-type Disney) and kinder eggs (a hollow chocolate egg with a little toy surprise in the middle).

My Ethan turned 10 while we were on our trip.  Double digits.  Growing too quickly for me, of course.  He finished out the year strong being identified by Duke University's TIP (Talent Identification Program).  Despite this, Ethan could work on staying a bit more focused.  His teacher diplomatically says, "I could deal with Ethan being a bit more present in the classroom."  However, I am most content with his spiritual growth.  He was walking around France reciting the verses he learned this year.  He discovered his favorite verse and has claimed it for his own.

The trip to Europe was an eye-opening one for him.  He was much more aware of the differences between our countries and asked countless "why?" questions.  Many times I couldn't quite come up with a well-thought out answer particularly when he wondered why the teenage girls in France wore only speedos to the lake and not tops.  Yikes!  His favorite parts of the trip were his trip to the Efteling (a sort of European Disney) and the Romange '14-'18, a museum in which everything in it was found within a 3 km distance from the museum, all from WWI and recreated to look like battlefields and bunkers along with many interesting tidbits about life during the war.

Despite growing up, I still get requests for some snuggle time and time alone with mom.  However, I am not allowed to show him any public displays of affection beyond a nice little side hug.  Ethan loves to play his DSi, build with Legos and of course, swim. He is always more interested in hanging out with his friends and is starting to find his little sisters somewhat of a pain if they follow him around or copy him in any way. Many times this is the source of their arguing and fighting which at times escalates to WWIII levels.  It should also be noted that his interest in the opposite sex is beginning to grow.  This should be interesting.

His heart still leans toward servanthood, but I am beginning seeing a bit more resistance lately than I have in the past.  In the personal section of his North Carolina notebook, Ethan wrote that he hopes to be a pastor when he grows up.  I don't know that this will materialize, but I do know that he has a heart of mercy that Jay and I do not.  He is compassionate and sensitive to others' feelings which are essential to that line of work.  Who knows?!?

Ethan is quite excited about swimming this summer.  The unknown and anxiety of the swim team is long over, replaced by competency and confidence.  Our first day at the pool yesterday yielded quite a bit of self-assurance as he reconnected with old pool pals and found a comfortable place.

Sadie is still very much Sadie.  She finished the school year very strong academically and received the Leadership award.  She also received the National Fitness Award for achieving certain physical standards for her age.  Still quite my challenging child, I see much progress being made in her ability to self-control.  I am understanding that much has to do with the excitement level of the situation and how much preparation I have given her before the event or circumstance she is going to have to deal with.  However, I also know that this is Sadie and as much as we practice and teach, she will always have to deal with her highly impulsive nature.

I have had second thoughts regarding homeschooling her.  I don't know why, but I am sure that it is normal to go through these cycles.  The school made it clear they will not be able to offer Sadie any additional work, academically. After seeing her tests scores, Jay and I know another year languishing around is not good mentally, and certainly not behaviorally.  Some of our school books for next year have been purchased and we are waiting for a call from the store to let us know when the next ones have arrived. 

Sadie makes friends very easily and finds it natural to talk to kids, teenagers and adults with ease.  She loves to draw, play outside and swim.  She is very determined and has an incredible ability to learn visually, picking up details and clues most miss.  She is eerily similar to Jay in that she dreams and imagines these great scenarios along with solutions..and then actually executes them. 

She loves, loves, loves animals and is currently going through an obsession with birds.  She combs through books identifying the birds outside and wants desperately to catch one to "observe" it.  I completely envision her house filled with animals when she is an adult.

She also loved the trip to Europe.  She cried the night before we had to leave.  There is so much about Jay's parents place in France that fits her perfectly.  So much area to explore, many places to walk and fill her senses to the brim.  She nearly caught a duckling at the lake on our last day.  Thank goodness she didn't as she honestly thought she would be able to bring the duck home to the U.S. to raise!!!  Her favorite part about the trip was having hot tea with Oma every day.

Overall, the trip served as a fantastic bonding time between Jay's parents and the kids.  Slightly overindulgent, i.e. three ice creams and chips for dinner on the last night, Oma (grandmother) was exactly what I expected for a grandmother who deeply loves her grandchildren and wants to makes up for lost time.  The house in France, in particular, is filled to the top with pictures of the kids on every wall. The kids love her and Opa just as deeply and it warmed my heart to see that even though they may only see each other once a year or even less, they do have a close relationship.

Now, let the summer officially begin!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Europe Day 4

Sunday, a day of rest in the Netherlands.  Funny, it is the country that does not go to church that saves this day for relxation.  But with all things that `modernize´ a couple stores are now open on Sundays. 

We discovered that the Albert Heijn, a supermarket, was open.  We jumped at the chance to stock up on all the food items we miss in the U.S.  In fact, we more than made up for the 3 years we haven´t been here.  Chocolate, chocolate sprinkles, chocolate spread, various spices, mixes, cheese, biscuits, cheese, beer, etc.  Three heaping bags full.  Just hope it fits into our suitcase!  Nancy enjoyed browsing with us, purchasing a few Dutch items and some Special K cereal.  One note, it seems there are many more American brands of food in the store this time around.  We bought tacos and burritos to fix Mexican for the family for dinner.

We came back to the house and the kids arrived.  I should note that during this trip, the kids have stayed in an apartment/type place of the Dumoulins.  They are staying there with Jay´s mother, Oma. Not only does this provide me with a vacation, but it gives her time with them alone.  They call the place the Play House. The kids have never been happier, in my opinion.  I don´t know if they are just jacked up on sugar or if this is what happens when kids get whatever they want!  We are calling it Oma Crack.  Anyway, they arrived, thrilled with their day´s adventures which included a fesitval in a park, pancakes made by their great uncle, Jan, and a visit to their great/great aunt Riet.  Oma also bought them a new Dsi game a piece.  Thrilled they were.  Thrilled.

Later in the day, word came back that the shops in town were open in conjunction with a gypsy festival going on. My original plan was to shop on Monday, but given the opportunity, I grabbed Jay´s mom and Nancy and away we went.  It wasn´t long before I realized that we were limited on time and we needed to separate in order to achieve our goals.  So, off I went and off Riet and Nancy went.  I closed the shops down at 5 and headed back to the house.  Fashion / wise, I can say I hope a few trends do not make it to America, but for the most part, it all seemed in line with what I have seen at home.  Note to self...start shopping for flat, tall boots for the fall.

After dinner Jay drove Jimmy and Nancy around Tilburg, showing the houses he lived in in his early years, the schools he went to, etc. We then stopped and had coffee with his uncle and aunt.  His aunt has the most beautiful garden I have ever seen.  What a lot of work! But beautiful.

Back home and now to bed.  Tomorrow is our last day in the Netherlands.

Europe, Day 3, part 2

I am already getting behind in my blogging.  Ack.  So, yesterday we had plans to go to Volendam, a touristy historic village and then head to Amsterdam where we would go on a canal tour and then to the Van Gogh museum.  As with most well-organized plans, things go a little awry.  However, it turned out to be a great day.

We encountered a bit of construction detour that basically made our trip about twice as long as it should have been.  One neat thing we saw off to the left of the car was that biblical/sized model of Noah´s ark that everyone sent me in some circulating email a while back.  We didn´t stop, like I would have liked, but honestly, it was HUGE, even from a distance.

However, we finally parked and walked to the water front of the village of Volendam. Old, it is.  Touristy - YES!  Think a bit of Myrtle Beach on steroids, but in historic buildings.  It was maybe not what I was thinking, but still, a nice place to get souvenirs, watch the Dutch eat their national treat - raw herring with onions, and get a cup of coffee on a terrace.  The kids were happy because they got ice cream - 3 cones for Sadie alone (thank you, Oma).

The van we rented is quite large so it made for interesting and ultimately prohibitive travel throughout the streets of Volendam.  Therefore it took a bit to get to the car to head to Amsterdam.

We arrived in Amsterdam by doing the one thing Jay said he didn't want to through the city center.  We lucked out, however, and found a parking spot.  It was just south of the Central Station which is also near where you pick up the canal tour.  When we got out of the van we realized (rather Jay and I' that the red light district had expanded just a little bit and we had parked in an area that included a couple of window ladies.  We walked the opposite direction with our heads down to the canal tour.  Along the way, we also encounter quite a few interesting smells.  Those that know Amstersam know that marijuana is legal.  Consequencly, it is a haven, in some parts, for those that enjoy this. I was waiting on the street with Lily for the others to catch up and Lily and I had move where we stood, less we get a contact high!

We boarded the boat and away we went learning all about the architecture and history of Amsterdam.  It was a beautiful weather day and people were out all along the streets, the terraces and the canals.  Frankly, it was overwhelming at times to see the throngs of people, the activity and bicycles which were locked to every surface possible.  It was a 50 minute tour which gave us a thorough view of the beautiful buildings and historic canals and bridges of the city.  It proved to be a little too long for the kids, but they hung in well in the end.

At that point, we realized the Van Gogh museum would have to wait for another day.  We had walked the Tuckers and the kids to death.  One bonus...Jimmy and I got our spanking white tennis shoes a little dirty.  Actually, if I had to say, Amsterdam is much dirtier city, much more populated city than I remembered.  Not so much my cup of tea any more. 

On the way back to the car, we could not avoid the ladies in the windows so I just implored Ethan to star straight ahead, to not look left or right.  He obliged me, but has not stopped asking me why ever since.  We headed back to Tilburg for dinner and bed.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Europe, Day 3, part 1

We are at the end of day 3 and before I type too much more let me just mention that I do not have time to edit my entries.  Additionally, I can not spell check these post as the language is set for Dutch.  The writing is what it is - errors and all.

I asked Jimmy and Nancy what they thought so far and this is what they said:

Nancy:  I am in awe. I am amazed by the people, the bicycles.  I am in awe of the architectural history and the water sitatuion- how they have reclaimed the land, the canals they use for transportation. It is educational. Favorite part so far: Heusden and canal tour today

Jimmy: It has been interesting and old. It is historical. Favorite part so far:  Canal tour in Amsterdam

I'll write more in the morning.  Time to hit the hay.

Europe, Day 2

Day 2 has brought some insights. 

One, Jay's host father, Jimmy speaks loudly to Jay's parents.  Normally, this would be a little funny as that using a loud does not equate to a better understanding of English when spoken.  However, Jay's father is slightly hard of hearing, so well, it works.  Sometimes, though it does seem like he is yelling.

I have forgotten what this country looks like to "outsiders."  So, I am not truly Dutch, but after 10 or so trips here and a year spent living here, I think I am not such a newbie.  I don't see the architecture as so ancient, the cars so small, the bikes everywhere, the ways of the Dutch so different.  Having Jay's host parents here bring the uniqueness of this country to the light again.  It is fun having them with us.

Day 2 has also brought a lot of eating.  I tend to stock up on all of my favorite foods while I am here...en masse.  Today we ate lunch at a "snack bar" where I ate fries met mayonaise (not really mayo, but a derviative of the sauce) and a kaas souffle (cheese souffle). I ate some appel taart.  That is an apple pie, but make no mistake, it is not your grandmother's goopy sugar concoction.  Jimmy and Nancy were great sports at trying new things.  I think Jimmy was even fond of a kroqueten which even I don't like - think fried potted meat.  Who knew? 

We toured a very old fishing village - Heusden.  There were two windmills there so there were lots of photo opportunities.  Then we went to Den Bosch where we took a canal boat tour.  It was a bit long, but the weather could not have been better.  We topped off our visit in Den Bosch with bossen bollen which is a softball-sized puff pastry filled with light whipped cream covered in dark chocolate.  Yes, it is every bit as good as it sounds. 

We left Den Bosch to rendezvous with the kids and Jay's parents at the Efteling, a large Dutch amusement park along the lines of Carowinds, but much better in its execution.  I would say it is like Disney, but of course it is not on such a grand scale.  The trip was given for Ethan's 10th birthday.  It was a wonderful way for Jay's parents to spend time alone with the kids.  When we arrived to picked them up, the kids shouted, ""It was awesome!" Jay's mom said to me, Ït was a dream day for me.  The best day of my life." That brought tears to my eyes.  How blessed I am to have such wonderful in-laws who feel such love for my children.  Lily's favorite ride was the teapot ride.  Ethan's was the and Sadie's was the Cobra, a heavy duty roller coaster.

We headed back to Tilburg for dinner which was Dutch Chinese take-out.  Yum!  Yum!  Then we celebrated Ethan's 10th brithday and Marique's 35th birthday with Appel Taart and drinks.  Ethan was here for his 1st birthday so I made sure to get his picture in the same spot in the garden where he celebrated it.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Added note to Day 1

We went shopping last night into the city center.  Thankfully, the house is only blocks from the main shopping district so it is easy to make a quick run.  I took the kids into Jamin, a candy store.  They were blown away.  I love how the Dutch package their candy.  This time, I saw the candy made into smiley faces and flower bouquets.  Large bins of make your own bags of candy were overwhelming for even Sadie.  The kids kept asking me to take their picture with the candy!

The World Cup for soccer is this year in South Africa.  As usual, the Dutch have high hopes and national pride runs high.  This makes for easy souvenir buying as they turn everything orange (the national color) and throw Dutch flags on everything. 

At Hema (think smaller Target) I bought a couple of dresses for the girls, some stroopwaffles (round waffle cones with caramel in between the two wafers) and a neat little sweater vest for me.  The shopping was a little too easy and I am a bit concerned at this point about my will power. 

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Trip Day 1

We made it safely to the Netherlands.  We had several delays, but managed to walk onto our connecting flight here.  The kids were well-behaved for the most part.  I sat with Lily for the long leg who slept in my lap, basically, for the last half of the flight.  Everytime I woke her up to leave the plane, she would fall back asleep, her little head just nodding back and forth.  I didn't get much sleep as I was in the row in front of the lavatories.  I think people take all of the angst out on those lavatory doors - slamming them, rocking that lock with brutal force.  The ensured my limited rest time.  Well, that and the fact that I promise our flight attendant was a shorter Johnny Depp who was doing research for his up and coming movie.  Thankfully, it was not his Edward Scissorhands or Pirates movies, but more his Willy Wonka role.  Either way, a little creepy. Actually, I just found out, Sadie loudly called him the man-woman.  Thankfully, Jay got to deal with that one!

We picked up our very large rental van - a volkswagon caravan.  We are pleased with the size, expecially for American standards.  However, cobbled stone streets of quaint Europe will require some manuvering.  Jay already let out a little "ack" noise on the highway when the lanes were tight and a large truck was beside us.  I think this will be interesting.

My first stop at Jay's house was at the dinner table.  I consummed large volumes of bread and cheese.  The kids gobbled up their chocolate sprinkle sandwiches, but who wouldn't.  The little plate of Dutch chocolates has almost all been consummed.  I will be lucky if I don't weigh a ton before we leave.  A nap has rounded out the day.  After dinner, we plan on walking into the city center.  It is the shopping night in Tilburg, which means the stores stay open late tonight.  Just my luck!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Ok, so it is May. The overscheduled month of all months.  I need to learn not to schedule hair, doctor or dentist appointments in this month unless absolutely necessary.  It is ridiculous enough as it is.  This month does not allow me to ponder about what is going on in life and how it all weaves together into lessons and moments to remember.  Rather, it tends to be just about facts and events.  Doesn't make for such interesting blogging.

Nevertheless, some highlights and lowlights include:

Lowlights:  Silly bandz. Sometimes I think I have crept into the underworld and decided from that perch I should make decisions regarding how to best rear my brood.  What mother wouldn't want to spend $3 on a packet of the thinest pieces of plastic every created by man, molded into some barely discernable shape that you wear like a bumpy bracelet?  All the sane ones, I suppose.  I knew we couldn't keep them all organized to their rightful owners with all of the trading amongst their peers.  The inevitable squabbles, physical entanglements, broken silly bandz and crying meltdowns have occured, usually in that order.  Over it.

Highlights:  An unplanned mini-conference with Lily's teacher which made me feel quite hopeful for Lily's academic future.  Seems she has made quite the transition this year, growing up in her school work and her social prowess.  We made the right choice to send her on this year, early as it may have been.  Whew!

Low or Highlight?: You can be the judge on this one.  A couple of birds have made a nest in our birdhouse in the back yard.  They spend most of their time hovering around the windows - possibly because they see their reflection and get in protective mode.  Anyway, this has attracted the attention of our resident Dr. Dolittle, Sadie.  She has been quite observant of the birds.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Someone throw me a lifeline.  I am drowning.

My cup runneth over

For the first time in my life, at least that I can recall or realize, someone who I once considered one of my closest and dearest friends, doesn't want that title any longer. It sounds so juvenile to write that, doesn't it?  Yet, my heart is a bit sad.  Over the last year, I have left multiple messages on her phone, sent a few emails, contacted her through facebook and even mailed a nice card.  All of which have yielded nothing, not even a one word response.  I let this nearly impact my Mother's Day weekend.  Why is it that we are magnetically pulled to what we don't have?  Gravitating to what seems to be missing, rather than the abundant blessings God has given us.

That realization hit me yesterday morning as I woke to the sounds of "Happy Mother's Day!!!!" at exactly 6:24 AM. In came my three blessings with a tray of breakfast they made for me. On the plate were two pancakes, two sausage biscuits, two slices of toasted cinnamon toast and a pat of butter. They also brought in a cup of coffee which they made themselves. Quickly, they scampered out of the room to retrieve their homemade creations and presents.  My heart was quickly filled with their unconditional adoration and appreciation. 

Here is a poem, one of a handful of Sadie's written declarations of love for me:

Exactly the mom I want
so cool
everlasting love
She is my journal of secrets
My mom is loving, kind, giving, cool, amazing, she tells awesome stories, the best, patient, a good mom.  I love my mom!

The line that made my heart swoon and brought tears to my eyes was, "She is my journal of secrets."  I have been working on developing a level of trust between the two of us that has been absent in earlier years.  There, in that little line, is the fruit of my labor.  She gets it. 
It is nice to have that type of affirmation from the ones you pour your life into.  But, is it necessary?  Not biblically, I know.  We are to give ourselves fully to His service without the guarantee of thanks, without the guarantee of seeing the fruits of our labors.  We should toil, perservering to the end, finding fulfillment in our work for Him, not the pat on the back that boosts our ego.  Even when relationships are failing, we honor God by walking in His ways.
As I am writing this blog, let me tell you how God was working to soothe my soul.  I had just ordered new swim bags for the kids to carry all their gear in for practice and meets.  I had been holding off on this purchase because it is not a cheap one and I wanted to be sure the kids were in this for at least another year or so.  Friday was the first day the kids used them.  Friday was also the day of our swim site cookout at our house.  I left practice early in order to have the house ready for the 30 or so guests that would descend directly after practice.  Another swim mom brought my kids, along with 3 others, to the house in what must have been one majorly chaotic ride.  
Fast forward to Sunday night when I asked the kids to get their swim gear together.  I saw a look on Sadie's face that made me a little uncomfortable.  She did not know where her brand new bag filled with clothes, bathing suit, etc. was.  This was very, very unlike her as she is usually so responsible.  I chatted with two of the swim moms on facebook and neither had seen it.  I was quickly growing tense over the situation, trying to remain calm until I knew for sure that it was gone.  Was it left at the YWCA, never to be seen again? 
My phone rang while I was typing this post.  It was one of those swim moms who had already gone to the YWCA this Monday morning, before 9 AM, to search for Sadie's bag. Sadie's bag - not even one of her own children, not her responsibility. I was blown away by her concern, her generosity of her time, her willingness to help me.  Unfortunately, the bag is not there.  Instead, I mytseriously found it in the trunk of my van which Sadie must have hurriedly thrown in there when she arrived home for the cookout.  Case solved.
And, so, here is God gently reminding me of His truths:  1) Focus on what He has given you because no matter the circumstance, there are blessings. 2) He always provides for you. Always. 3) Listening to God's voice offers opportunities to serve and grow and finally 4) We should never, ever be driven by the reaction and response of this world, particularly in our definition of self.  God's ability to fill our cups will always outshine the limited possibilities of this world.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Mother's Day 2010

I woke to the sounds of "Happy Mother's Day" at exactly 6:24 AM.  In came my three blessings with a tray of breakfast they made fo rme.  On the plate were two pancakes, two sausage biscuits, two slices of toasted cinnamon toast and a pat of butter.  They also brought in a cup of coffee which they made themselves.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Random musings

I have a multitude of events, issues and thoughts that have occurred over the past several weeks.  I kept a running list of them in this post and have been waiting for a time to add in the details.  Time hasn't made itself available until today and even now, the trash is overflowing out of the toters in driveway.  Writing is the perfect procrastinator to tackling my least favorite chore...bundling and taking the trash to the dump.

We keep swimming along.  Literally.  Today, Lily will attempt to swim her first 25 yard freestyle.  Monday, at the pool, she overheard another mom offer to fix her daughter a grilled cheese.  Lily became fixated.  However, I am militant about not being a short-order cook.  I already had dinner planned for that evening and was not going to add to my work load to whip out a grilled cheese.  I know, harsh.  So, I threw out the idea that I would be thrilled to fix her a grilled cheese if she swam that 25 on Wednesday (which is today).  She seems quite pleased with the idea.  I don't have the heart to tell her that we have dinner plans out and therefore, the grilled cheese won't actually be fixed by me.  Hopefully, she won't drown and won't care where it originates.

Sadie is on her own little rewards obsession.  She is consumed with getting her ears pierced.  I was not allowed this treat until I was in junior high and buy into that old school of thought.  Not to be deterred, Sadie has offered up what I consider a quite amazing goal.  If she gets her A time, she gets her ears pierced.  Mind you, an A time in swimming is somewhere around a junior olympic time.  I told her a BB time would suffice (which is slower).  She wouldn't hear it, insisting on it being an A time.  Time will tell.

Ethan has reached another teenage plateau.  This time, it is not a bad thing.  He realizes that he likes taking a shower in the morning before school and here is the kicker...he likes taking a shower every day!  Wow!  Hip hip hooray for personal hygiene!  He also likes topping it off with a little dab of cologne, which nearly caused my olfactory sense to revolt to my own child.  Thankfully, we have worked our way through "Pepe Le Pew," to "I bathed in it," to "My prescence is known," to now "subtle and appropriate." 

Yesterday, I found an empty cling wrap carton in my driveway.  For several weeks now, I have uncovered some bizarre uses of the wrap by none other than...Sadie.  First I discovered that she wrapped the base of a small pine tree, multiple times.  I am not sure if she thought this would protect the tree? Yesterday, I noticed she made a "wrap" for Lily that served as a wedding gown.  Then she used the wrap like duct tape and attached a glass jar to her scooter into which she deposited a bunch of rose petals.  While Lily walked the driveway, Sadie rode along on her scooter scattering the rose petals.  Later the saran wrap was used to create a sling for Sadie's imaginary broken arm along with some scotch tape.  I guess it is time to start creating a box with all kinds of materials - cardboard, wrap, tin foil, tape, bits and baubles from the office to spur this "creativity?"  The one thing that definitely needs to be included is a pair of scissors as those never seem to be handy when I am in "clean-up and repair mode."

Speaking of Sadie, God has revealed great insight into Sadie over the past several weeks. In all of my praying about her academic future, along with a very odd and difficult circumstance I cannot write about on here, I have discovered this:  Sadie does not have an inherently trustful heart.  The only way that she believes something to be true is if she experiences it.  When I talk about consequences for certain actions to her, I realize those don't resonate with her, until it happens.  When she would climb trees at age 3, I would warn her not to do it because she would fall and hurt herself.  Her response, "I not fall, Mommy.  I not fall."  The tricky issue with all of this is that Sadie does not often "fall," in the literal and figurative sense.  She is good at most everything she tries and therefore, does not encounter many situations that she either has to deal with or can't solve on her own.  Let me clarify.  She makes a LOT of poor decisions, but has become a master of making sure no one knows.  However, this recent difficult situation provided me the opportunity to "save" her from major embarrassment, thereby building a new level of trust.  I am confident that one of the reasons why I am to homsechool next year is to provide more opportunities to grow our relationship. 

I think everyone has heard the phrase, "God has such a sense of humor."  I'll mark this entire homeschool decision into that column.  I mean, Sadie has been my child that I have never shed a tear over when it has come to separation.  First days of preschool, school, camps, etc. I might have appeared to ever so slightly push her through the door, turn and walk very quickly away.  I know, that sounds terrible, doesn't it?  This is no indication of my love for her, but is a statement on my patience and understanding of her.  A year ago, she would have been the LAST one I would ever have considered homeschooling - my most head-strong, strong-willed, challenging, curious, intelligent, tenacious, and crazy child.  God must have howled when I announced that I would never homeschool her. Now, here I sit, just as calm and peace-filled about this decision.  I am excited about it...with Sadie

I love my little Lily's inquisitiveness.  I don't recall either of my other two asking so many questions about reading.  Ethan struggled a bit more in the beginning and Sadie just always seemed to know how to read.  However, Lily wants to know why behind everything she doesn't know. Last night it was, "What is that?" as she points to a quotation mark.  "Why do you not sound the "e" on the word gate?" " Why is "want" pronounced "want." Obviously, she wants to push forward with reading.  Looks like I will try to come up with some sort of enrichment for her this summer, too.

So, this is random, but worth mentioning.  I had a complete impulse buy yesterday at Wal-Mart.  I find it fascinating how they package food these days.  Choosing to tout some new health benefit, enticing you to buy a product...and I am Gussy Gullible.  This time around...Ann's House Chocolate Nut Antioxidant.  The label says, "trans fat free, cholesterol free, very low sodium, good source of Antioxidant Vitamin E."  I am sure all of this is true, but not when you consume half the bag in one sitting resulting in 30 g of fat and nearly 800 calories.  Sigh. 

I could continue this post by writing about my ire for these new silly bandz, but time is ticking on the garbage. Yes, I purposely wrote silly bandz and garbage in the same sentence.